Film Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

The second installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire ups the pace from the first film, creating for the most part a more immediately engrossing thriller, but one with more flaws than its predecessor.

Journalist Mikael is investigating a sex-trafficking ring when three people connected with the case are murdered. Computer hacker Lisbeth is accused of the murders and, with Mikael’s help, must clear her name by finding the real culprit…

The main drawback with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was that it took too long to really get going. The Girl Who Played with Fire doesn’t suffer with this affliction, and is more instantly engaging because of this. Furthermore, some of the mysteries of Lisbeth’s past (introduced in the first film) are revealed in this installment, making it more satisfying to this end.

With much of the character development taking place in the first installment, director Daniel Alfredson is free to concentrate on the action of the case itself. It is just a shame that the mystery in this film isn’t as interesting as the case in the first film. The missing teen and the family empire of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo presented a more fascinating series of events than this case of a trafficking ring, which is never really investigated in any depth. Instead, the plot shifts to clearing the name of Lisbeth, which entails more action but less investigation.

The Girl Who Played with Fire presents a very clear depiction of women as victims and the perpetrators of crimes as solely male. Whilst Lisbeth may not be a typical heroine, she appears to fit in with the other main female characters in that she is a victim of violence. This rather primitive representation of genders detracts from the mystery aspect of the crimes, in both installments of the trilogy.

As with the first film, The Girl Who Played with Fire builds the tension to the climactic sequence. Although the climax is exciting, it also lacks credibility. Whilst the film has an overall basis in reality, events in the final scenes betray this with an absence of believability.

Casting for the American adaptation of Larsson’s books has recently been announced. It will be interesting to see how closely they resemble this Swedish attempt.